Hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo result from the damage of mechanosensory hair cells (HCs) located in sensory epithelium of the cochlea and vestibular organs of the inner ear. HCs do not regenerate. Currently, hearing aids and cochlear implants are the only treatments to address hearing loss, and both options provide mild relief. The challenge in developing new therapies and screening ototoxic agents is that the cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelium are isolated deep in the inner ear. Invasive measures are required to access the sensory epithelium. KU researchers have endeavored to create both cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelium outside of the body. They are developing a model platform where the cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelium can be grown outside of the body for testing and developing new diagnostics, screening ototoxic agents, and evaluating new therapies. No such model currently exists. Thus, this technology has the potential to take a leap forward in the advancement of medicine for hearing disorders.
We are developing a fully functional ex vivo (outside of body) cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelium model that can be licensed out to use for studying inner ear pathologies, developing new diagnostics for hearing loss, screening ototoxic agents (e.g., antibiotics, cancer drugs), and testing new therapeutics (e.g., gene vectors, stem cell transplantation, drugs).
Instructions and markers are available on how to assemble and use the materials and cells to grow the cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelium to use for testing and development purposes.
The technology can be used for testing new pharmaceuticals and other therapies for ototoxicity and/or HC healing. Using this product in early development stages instead of needing to run several animal studies to determine the effectiveness of a pharmaceutical can save huge costs. Clients can develop their own pharmaceuticals, diagnostic tools, and therapies off of this model.
Currently, there is no ex vivo model for cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelium. Thus, investigators have to use small animals to evaluate pharmaceuticals. Additionally, animals need to be sacrificed to obtain the cochlea and vestibular organ to analyze results. With this product, there is no need to use animals. The sensory epithelium of the cochlea and vestibular system are grown outside of the body for real-time testing.
The technology could potentially be adapted for growing other organ systems that are difficult to study outside of the body.